Red Sox Struggles Continue: Shutout Two Nights In A Row

FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Matt Chapman clobbered an 89 MPH fastball off Chris Sale with one out in the top of the first inning last night, Red Sox Nation cringed. The ball did not have much loft to it. Right off the bat, I thought the ball had a chance at staying in the yard. But as it kept carrying, and as I saw the left-center field fence only 367 feet away, my doubts sunk in, and a split-second later, a Red Sox starter had given up its 12th home run. As Chapman rounded the bases, one thought crept into my head: the Red Sox struggles continue.

However, to everyone’s surprise, the Sox pitched phenomenally the rest of the way. SaleRed Sox Struggles Continue pitched 6 innings, walked two, and allowed only two more hits, one of which was an infield single and the other a single to center. He threw 87 total pitches. The Sox only had to tax two relievers as well, Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier. Workman pitched the 7th and Brasier pitched the 8th; both of them did not allow a run.

Where Boston struggled in this one was at the plate. More specifically, failing to capitalize when runners were in scoring position. Hitters went 0-7 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Mookie Betts reached second base after doubling off Mike Fiers in the 3rd with two outs. Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second to end the inning.

To lead off the 4th, Rafael Devers singled to right-center field. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts followed with two consecutive flyouts. Devers could not tag up to advance from first base. Mitch Moreland, next up, singled to right field. Devers rounded second and reached third base. Brock Holt then grounded out to end the frame.

In the top of the 6th, Benintendi recorded Boston’s fifth hit of the evening with an infield single. Subsequently, he stole second. Two batters later, Martinez was able to move Benintendi to third. Following that, with two outs, Bogaerts struck out swinging.

An inning later, Christian Vazquez also reached third base, after a double and a stolen base. To end the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging. My thinking: the Red Sox struggles continue.

Laureano Again?!

Bogaerts came to the plate in the 9th with one out. He launched a deep fly ball to center field. Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano, who gunned down Bogaerts at home plate the night before, went up for the catch, but missed. The ball ricochetted off the wall and rolled back onto the outfield grass. Laureano picked up the ball and threw a one-hop dart to Chapman at third base. Chapman caught it cleanly, slapped his glove down on Bogaerts’ side, and the call was ‘out’!

From there, even with Moreland coming to the plate, the life had been sucked out of the Red Sox. Holt eventually struck out to end the game.

Alex Cora frustrated, but still satisfied

“Right now nothing’s going our way,” the Sox manager was quoted as saying on NESN.com. “Honestly, after tonight, I feel better. I feel better because it was a game. 1-0, we had a chance. We competed. … I know what the record is, but honestly I can go home and get some sleep.”

The Sox have now lost four games in a row. Almost a full week into the 2019 season, they find themselves solidified into last place in the AL East.

The Red Sox struggles continue into tonight’s third game out of four against the A’s. First pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET.

Red Sox Game 4 Recap

Sunday’s pitching matchup was between Rick Porcello (career-high 190 strikeouts in 2018) vs. Wade LeBlanc (27 starts, 3.72 ERA in 2018). Andrew Benintendi was held out of the lineup for the first time in 2019. Mookie Betts led off for the first time since last year’s World Series Game 5. To begin Boston Red Sox 2019 game-4 recap, let’s see how Rafael Devers scored the Sox’s first run on Sunday.

The Sox scored first in this one. After a ground out by Betts to start the game, Deversgame 4 recap doubled to deep left and J.D. Martinez drove him in with a RBI single up the middle. Eduardo Nunez drove in two more later in the first inning, thanks to an error from third baseman Ryon Healy that loaded the bases.

Porcello breezed through the first with 2 k’s and a flyout. LeBlanc pitched a clean second. Jay Bruce led off the bottom of inning two with a stand up double to right and Omar Narvaez singled right after. Bruce to third. Later in the inning with two outs, Dee Gordon singled in both Bruce and Narvaez. Boston 3, Seattle 2.

Game 4 recap premier moment

In the top of the third, the Red Sox put two men in scoring position (Martinez and Mitch Moreland), but were unable to score. In the bottom half, Mitch Haniger drove a ball to left field and Martinez, who usually DH’s, dropped the ball in the sun. Haniger safe at second. Three batters later, Narvaez belted a three-run home run into the right field bleachers. Seattle 5, Boston 3. Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith added the next two runs via a sacrifice fly and a RBI single. 7-3, Seattle. Porcello was pulled after throwing 73 pitches in 2.2 innings. Brian Johnson came on in relief.

The Mariners still were not done in the third. With two outs, Haniger doubled in two more with a double, past Devers, down the left field line. Domingo Santana flew out to deep center to end the inning after seven runs scored. Seattle 9, Boston 3.

Game 4 recap: Sox strike right back

The Sox struck right back. With two men on (Betts, Devers) and two outs in the top of the fourth, Martinez hammered a ball far and gone, just inside the left field foul pole. The deficit was cut to three.

Jay Bruce responded immediately, though, with a solo shot to right-center off Johnson. The left-hander escaped the inning after allowing another extra-base hit – a double to Healy. Seattle 10, Boston 6.

Betts launched a solo shot in the sixth inning off Mariners reliever Nick Rumbelow to cut the lead back to three. Both teams went scoreless the next two and a half innings.

In the ninth inning with the bases loaded, M’s reliever Chasen Bradford walked pinch-hitter Blake Swihart to score Martinez. The tying run moved to scoring position at second base. Christian Vazquez then struck out and Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to end the game. Final score: Seattle 10, Boston 8.

Some things I liked from Sunday’s game were the three runs scored in the first inning, J.D. Martinez knocking in four runs, hitters going 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and the strong finish by Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier in relief. Things I did not like were a costly error by Martinez in the outfield that helped fuel a seven-run inning, hitters leaving ten men stranded on base, and Porcello’s inability to pitch 3 innings.

Game 4 recap: Opening Series takeaway

The Red Sox finished their first series of the season with one win and three losses. Spectacularly, each of their starting pitchers (Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Porcello) allowed at least six runs. Martinez and Devers combined for 13 hits. Andrew Benintendi had just one hit. Martinez had two home runs. The most effective relief pitchers were Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. Combined, the two allowed 2 hits and 2 walks in 4.1 innings.

Boston starts their next series tonight against the Oakland Athletics. First pitch is at 10:07 PM/ET.

Red Sox Update: Two Days Until Opening Day

With two days until Opening Day in Seattle and with ample activity occurring in the past week, here is a quick Red Sox update. Chris Sale signed a 5-yr/$145 million contract on Saturday to remain with the team through 2024. Also on Saturday, the Red Sox made the final cuts to their bullpen. Darwinzon Hernandez was sent to Double-A Portland, while Bobby Poyner and Marcus Walden were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager Alex Cora stated that Jenrry Mejia would not make the Opening Day roster as well.

Bullpen is set…for now

The Sox bullpen will consist of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree,Red Sox Update Brian Johnson, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez and Brandon Workman to begin 2019.

On Monday, Sandy Leon, who had been with the Red Sox since 2015, was placed on waivers. Later that day, Rick Porcello was hit in the head with a ‘comebacker’ by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. He “laughed” it off and stayed in the game. What?!?

Arguably the most substantial news happened last Wednesday. In an interview with reporters, reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts was asked about Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s new record breaking contract. “I love it here in Boston. It’s a great spot. I’ve definitely grown to love going up north in the cold. That doesn’t mean I want to sell myself short of my value.”

Also in this Red Sox Update

It was announced very early this morning that reigning World Series MVP Steve Pearce will begin 2019 on the Injured List (IL) due to a left calf injury. Sam Travis will serve as Boston’s backup first baseman in Seattle.

Just over a week ago on March 18, Cora announced that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will also begin the season on the Injured List. Pedroia could make his debut on April 9th on Boston’s first home game of the season versus Toronto.

The Case for Matt Barnes, 2019 Closer

If we’ve learned anything about how Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski, it is that when he says he is going or not going to make a particular move, that tends to be true. On numerous occasions this off-season, Dombrowski has been quoted as saying that “major moves will be unlikely” when addressing the bullpen. With Craig Kimbrel riding the free agency pine, the franchise turns to the arms that it already has. This is the case for Matt Barnes, 2019 closer.

Barnes has shown steady improvement each season

When Barnes was taken in the first round of the MLB June Draft in 2011, the Matt Barnes, 2019 closerConnecticut was taken out of UConn as a starting pitcher. Given his pitch arsenal and powerful four seam fastball, it made more sense to the organization that Barnes move to the bullpen to help the major league squad.

Initially, upon entering the big leagues, Barnes became slightly walk prone, and has posted particularly troublesome home/road splits thus far in his career. But the numbers do not lie. Barnes has shown consistent improvement across the board in each of his three full major league seasons.

If Matt Barnes, 2019 closer is going to be a legitimate thing, then he will need to continue that upward trend he has been on. Let’s take a look at Barnes’ 2016-2018 seasons to get a feel for how he has improved:

2016: 62 G, 66.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 62 H, 71 K, 3.72 FIP

2017: 72 G, 69.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 57 H, 83 K, 3.33 FIP

2018: 62 G, 61.2 IP, 3.65 ERA, 47 H, 96 K, 2.71 FIP

While these numbers might not show exponential increases, the statistics prove that Barnes has risen to the occasion. Barnes even finished among the top five in SO/9.0IP among American League relievers. And remember, Barnes’ role in 2018 increased to higher leverage situations, such as the 8th inning, in most games. More often than not, he delivered.

Barnes fared well against both righties and lefties in 2018

An advantage to Barnes’ case is how well he did against hitters from both sides of the plate. He held hitters, collectively, to an OPS under .650, and most outstandingly, held right-handed hitters to a lowly .191 average. The sample size is larger against righties, and the numbers are better still. A hurler that can reverse splits and still maintain dominance is on the path to success.

Barnes performed even better in the 2018 postseason

While the big righty featured stuff above league average last season, it was the playoffs where he really shined. Through 10.1 innings, Barnes allowed just one run and struck out ten batters, all in high leverage situations against three of the best lineups baseball has to offer. Barnes bounced around anywhere from the fifth through the ninth inning, and found success at each stop. A pitcher with the moxie to fit into different roles makes the Matt Barnes, 2019 closer decision an easy one.

There are no guarantees that Cora sticks with a traditional ninth inning closer this season. There is a good chance Barnes and fellow postseason standout Ryan Brasier switch roles on a match up basis. One night Barnes might get the call, and Brasier the other. After three years of gradual improvement, one thing is clear- if Barnes gets that call, he is going to answer.